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EU Energy Sanctions Against Russia Level Up

What’s happening?

Evidence of war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine has prompted the EU to reconsider energy sanctions against Russia.

This week, the European Commission introduced a new ban on €4B ($4.3B) worth of Russian coal imports. This marks the EU’s first sanctions targeting Russia’s energy sector since the invasion in late February.

The United States already banned the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal earlier in March, and the United Kingdom is phasing out Russian oil imports by the end of 2022. 

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According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), European coal exports were already expected to drop 6% by 2024, even before Russia’s invasion. This begs the question: is the EU willing to extend its sanctions to Russian gas and oil despite the hit to European economies?

The Commission’s President, Ursula Von der Leyen, has expressed an intent to look into Russian oil bans, stating that the latest round of sanctions “will not be the last.” EU leaders also have plans to cut Russian gas imports by 66% in the next year, moving swiftly to find alternative energy sources and end reliance on Russian energy before 2030. 

According to the IEA, Russia was the world’s third-largest coal exporter in 2020. Europe is Russia’s largest coal customer and imports 25% of its oil and 40% of its gas from Russia.

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What’s the impact?

It’s no surprise that Europe has been reluctant to impose energy sanctions so far in the conflict, considering its reliance on Russian energy imports. The new coal ban—and the potential for oil and gas bans—will likely have a significant impact on European economies and daily life.

The existing coal ban will force the EU to seek alternative coal sources to cope with supply issues. Countries that still rely on coal for electricity, like Poland and Germany, will be particularly affected.

A ban on Russian gas imports would have even deeper consequences. Energy and fuel prices would increase for consumers and likely send gas-reliant EU countries, like Italy and Germany, into recession. Experts also believe that Europe will face logistical challenges when transporting gas from alternative countries and that energy rationing could become a reality.

In a CNN Business article, Eurasia Group’s Director of Energy, Climate, and Resources believes that the EU’s hesitation goes beyond Russian energy reliance. Enacting tough energy sanctions now could leave the EU with little leverage if the Kremlin takes drastic action down the road. Full energy sanctions could also themselves trigger further Russian retaliation. 

Back in early March, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak warned that Russian oil bans would create “catastrophic consequences for the global market” and could prompt retaliation.

How Can OSINT Help?

Europe’s new stance on energy sanctions is attributed to recent atrocities against civilians in Bucha, Ukraine. The evidence of Russian war crimes in Bucha was discovered via open-source imagery from drones, phone cameras, and satellite imagery.

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) has been crucial for monitoring Russian activities in Ukraine since the invasion. Access to this information is key in influencing governments’ decisions to impose sanctions. 

Additionally, OSINT enables intelligence teams to:

  • Assess information environments, both inside and outside of Russia, in response to sanctions
  • Improve supply chain visibility to monitor downstream sanction impacts in regions of interest
  • Monitor on-the-ground activities in Ukraine that may indicate Russian retaliation in response to new sanctions

Contact us to learn more about the role of OSINT in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.